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Zelig (1983)

Woody Allen , John Buckwalter , Woody Allen  |  PG |  DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Woody Allen, John Buckwalter, Mia Farrow
  • Directors: Woody Allen
  • Writers: Woody Allen
  • Producers: Charles H. Joffe
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Black & White, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Dubbed: Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: November 6, 2001
  • Run Time: 79 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005O06N
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,161 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Zelig" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Mr. Personality? Or Mr. Personality disorder? Find out in Woody Allen's madcap mockumentary about an identity crisis of hilarious proportions! Thematically intricate, technically complex and filled with some of the most astonishing special effects ever, Zelig is "pure magic" (Newsweek)! Nominated* for two OscarsÂ(r), this "work of breathtaking virtuosity" (Playboy) isfurther proof that Allen "is the premier American filmmaker of his day" (The New York Times)! Leonard Zelig (Allen) is a social quick-change artist whose neurotic insecurity forces him to mimicmentally and physicallywhomever he's with. Treated by Dr. Eudora Fletcher (Farrow), Zelig is slowly cured, and in the process goes from side-show freak to national celebrity to Eudoras fiancÃ(c)! But when misdeeds from Zelig's multiple-personality past start to surface (larceny, bigamy and an unauthorized appendectomy), the human chameleon is on the run again, and Eudora must search the world over to find and save the only man who's every man she's ever wanted!

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Your pancakes... Your pancakes are terrible..." January 29, 2005
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This film is perhaps the ultimate in parody-documentary. Some people might find the pace a bit slow, and the humor a bit dry, precisely because it is presented exactly as it would be if it were an actual serious documentary about a real historical personage. It requires a bit more thought and attention on the part of the vewer than does a "conventional" comedy for that reason. At one point the narrator, in his best, serious, Public Television Documentary National Geographic Special voice, describes Zelig's parents and their violent domestic squabbles: "...Even though they lived over a bowling alley, it was the bowling alley that complained about the noise." This sort of thing could go right past you if you weren't really listening.

The reason this film works is that all of the supporting details are meticulous and perfect. All of the 1920's songs about Zelig (such as "The Chameleon Dance" and "You May Be Six People, But I Love You") are written and performed so perfectly in period style that I, watching it the first few times, could hardly believe that they were not actual, real (but obscure) 1920's songs that they found somewhere which happened to fit the movie theme, rather than being modern parodies of vintage recordings. (Speaking as a musician, I can vouch for the fact that that bright, Irish popular tenor sound which was all the rage back then is a rarity these days!)

And all of the film clips are just as carefully executed. I seem to remember, back when this film was just out, an article describing how Allen's production staff took just-shot black and white footage into the parking lot and threw it on the ground and walked all over it, and carefully crinkled the film, so that it would look worn and decades-old.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Truly Innovative Film from Woody Allen December 29, 2005
I had seen bits and pieces of Woody Allen's "Zelig" before but I had never seen the whole movie until last night. To be honest, my initial reaction was to wonder if I would be able to maintain interest throughout the whole movie. As it turned out, that was no problem.

"Zelig" tells the story of an individual who developed an unexplainable ability to appear like the people of his surroundings. It is presented in a documentary format and that format is amazingly well done. I'm of the opinion that there was plenty of actual newsreel footage from the 1920's and '30's and there was also plenty of new film made to appear that it was from that era. I was never that certain as to which was which because the cinematography was that well done. The retrospective interviews with present day theorists and aged contemporaries butressed the documentary nature of the film (as did the continuous narration).

As the title character (played by Woody Allen) assumes more and more identities, we come to understand that his efforts to be like others leaves him with no identity of his own. I understood Allen's message to be an expression of his frustration with the negative public reaction to his post-"Annie Hall" movies. He wasn't making the kinds of pictures everyone else was and his uniqueness was being dismissed. I saw him making a statement that banality lacks meaning by satirizing someone who went out of his way to avoid being himself. Maybe Allen had a higher purpose in making "Zelig" but I was comfortable with the message I got out of it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Allen's Brillant Mockumentary November 18, 2001
Zelig, the Woody Allen film that time almost forgot, is one of his 10 best. The story is well explained by other reviewers. Nevertheless, the DVD (without any extras except a fascinating trailer) is superior. The grainy film stock and sound are excellent. The movie is a timely today as it was in 1983. A fascinating film from a variety of perspectives. It was a painstaking labor of love that really addresses the need for love, assimilation, and life in the 1920s or 30s. A superior film, well worth the 15 bucks.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Woody Allen Does It Again: Hilarious Documentary July 5, 2004
1983's "Zelig" was written and directed by Woody Allen. This is of course years after 1977's Annie Hall and so Woody Allen's comic talent was already established. Woody Allen's witty, intellectual humor is most prominent in this film which he directs as if it were a documentary. It's entirely in black and white, except for the contemporary scenes of interviewed characters, there is footage from the 20's, 30's and 40's, including footage of Adolph Hitler making a speech at a Nazi rally. Woody Allen plays Leonard Zelig, a shy, unassuming little man with an identity disorder. He cannot truly be himself because he becomes transformed into his surroundings. When he is around Jewish rabbis, he becomes Jewish, when he is around African-Americans, he becomes black, when he is around overweight people, he becomes fat, etc. This miracle of biology earned him the title of the Chameleon or "The Changing Man". Mia Farrow, who coincidentally was romantically linked with Woody Allen at this time in the 80's, plays the role of Zelig's love interest Dr. Eudora Fletcher. Eudora Fletcher takes a genuine interest in Zelig and examines him psychologically through hypnosis. The scenes of their sessions are extremely funny but then again so is much of this movie. Woody Allen is the first Forrest Gump, being as funny and awkward, at least 10 years before Tom Hanks did it in the 90's. Zelig is so loved that he is hob-nobbing with all the greats of the time- Charlie Chaplin, William Randalph Hearst, Fanny Brice, F. Scott Fitzegerald and Zelda, etc. The music for this movie is appropriately cartoonish and Charleston/Jazz Age style. There is one dance segment called The Chameleon and another with the voice of Betty Boop singing "Chameleon Days". Witty dialogue, lots of humor and visual jokes, it's a movie that is sure to delight you.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Woody Allen film like no other
Zelig (1983) comes from the period when Woody Allen was at the very peak of his creativity. He had won the best picture Oscar with Annie Hall (1977), had made his most critically... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Film Buff
5.0 out of 5 stars A great movie
Not a big woody allen fan but you got to love this. PBS played it and I thought it was a Documentry. It's that believable. Could not wait for it to come out in DVD.
Published 6 months ago by Duane Snyder
4.0 out of 5 stars Allen Classic
You can never go wrong with a bit of Woody Allen. This was a great story of a man reinventing himself over and over.
Published 7 months ago by Rowan Members
5.0 out of 5 stars Woody's imagination gone wild
The technical superimposition and Woody's own brand of imagination make this a swell spoof on psychiatry, sociology and a history of the times. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Joseph Borkson
5.0 out of 5 stars Zelig get's around
This movie is Region 2 and must be played on that type payer.
Zelig is the story of one man's life ortrayed by Woody Allen. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Classic Collecter
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor Picture Quality...
Purchasing Zelig, I recalled that when I saw this Woody Allen film originally in the theater the picture was "dark" but the story was unique and enjoyable... Read more
Published 9 months ago by hdz79
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, funny movie!
I really enjoy Woody Allen's humor, and Zelig is the apotheosis of his movie making career. Enjoyment was had by all!
Published 9 months ago by Jeffrey Leister
3.0 out of 5 stars Zelig Woody Allen
Not as good as I remember it. This is not one of Woody's best. May be best if one is a Woody fan.
Published 10 months ago by anne caggiano
5.0 out of 5 stars ALLEN'S BEST MOVIE
This film is often described as a mock documentary but it is really a parody of human nature, American culture, and especially celebrity culture. Read more
Published 10 months ago by The Curmudgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars Among Woody Allen's best...
The humor, ingenuity and recreation of the past in Zelig would be enough to recommend it, but it's the theme of overarching conformity which really makes this film outstanding --... Read more
Published 12 months ago by MightySchwa
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